Piper nigrum L.
Family : Piperaceae


Pepper is the most widely used spice in the world and known as “King of the Spices”. Pepper crop is native to South Asia and historical records reveal that pepper is originated in South India. Peppercorns were a much-prized trade good often referred to also as “black gold” and used by as a form of commodity money. Until well after the Middle age, virtually all of the black pepper found in Europe, the Middle East, and North Africa traveled there from India’s Malabar region. It was some part of the preciousness of these spices that led to the European efforts to find a sea route to India and consequently to the European Colonial occupation of the country as well as European discovery and colonization of America/s. Vietnam, Indonesia, Malaysia, India, and Brazil are the main pepper producers in the world.

Products and Uses

Pepper is largely produced as black pepper which is the dried whole fruit. White pepper is produced by removing outer pericarp and pepper is also available in crushed and ground forms. A small amount of green and ripened pepper is pickled in brine and dehydrated green pepper and preserved red pepper also traded. Pepper oil and oleoresins are also extracted marketed as value-added products. Pepper is mainly used as a spice and flavoring agent in the food industry. It also has industrial uses in perfumery and pharmaceutical industries.

Major Growing Areas

In Sri Lanka pepper is mainly cultivated in Low and Mid country Wet and Intermediate agro-climatic zones. The total extent of pepper in Sri Lanka is about 42,989 ha and Matale, Kandy, Kegalle, Badulla, Ratnapura, Monaragala, and Kurunegala are the major districts.


Although the origin of black pepper is believed to be Malabar Coast of India, Sri Lanka too is a home to a number of wild pepper types. When considering the huge genetic variability of P. nigrum L. found in Sri Lanka and the presence of pepper wild relatives, it is believed that Sri Lanka also a place of origin of pepper. Some commercial black pepper varieties had also been introduced to Sri Lanka since the existence of commercial black pepper trade. High yielding pepper line called “Panniyur-1” from India and “Kuchin” from Malaysia was introduced in the 1970s but MB12 and GK 49 are high yielding and superior quality local selections which are popular among black pepper cultivators. Department of Export Agriculture has recently introduced three new hybrids – Dingi Rala, kohukumbure Rala and Bootawe Rala.

Dingi RalaBootawe RalaKohukumbure Rala
ParentsPanyur 1 x GK 49Panyur 1 x DM 7MW 21 x panyur 1
Length of a panicle12cm14cm12cm
Filling percentage80%80%80%
Dry weight ratio327:1327:1246:1
Oleoresin percentage12.9%12.9%15.4%
Oil percentage2.8%3.1%3.6%
Piperine percentage5.6%6.3%6%
Weight of 1 liter571.86g490.88g613.43g
Weight of 1000 seeds63.44g47.19g53.31g

Soils and Climatic needs

Soil: Pepper grows best in well-drained loamy soils rich in organic matter and having a minimum depth of 60cm. Clay soil restricts root growth and creates moisture stress during short dry spells. Ill drain soils lead to many soil-borne diseases. Soil PH is better to maintain between 5.5 to 6.5. Red yellow podsolic, Red brown Latasolic and immature brown loam soils are suitable for pepper cultivation. Ill drained and eroted shallow soils are not suitable. Altitude: from Sea level to elevation of about 800m msl. Annual rainfall: not less than 1750mm. Areas with prolonged droughts should be avoided unless there is a facility for supplementary irrigation. There should be clear dry spell and a sufficient rainfall for flower induction and to facilitate pollination. Temperature: Plants can tolerate 15º C – 35ºC. Best temperature to grow pepper is 20oC to 30oC. Growth and yield performances are better in humid tropics. Strong winds are harmful. Therefore mid country and up country areas with wind barriers are most suitable for pepper cultivation.

Crop establishment

Planting material Pepper is usually propagated vegetatively using stem cuttings. For commercial cultivations, cuttings are selected from terminal stems or from ground runners. If cuttings are taken from lateral branches bush type pepper plants can be produced. The selected mother vine should be high yielding, healthy and with vigorous growth, produce lateral branches with short inter-nodal distances, long spikes, complete coverage of spikes with berries, bold berries and be free from pest and diseases. As pepper is grown in different climatic zones the selected line should be tolerant to the climatic conditions of the area. Cuttings are planted in 250gauge, 8” x5” poly bags filled with a mixture of equal parts of topsoil, cow dung, sand, and coir dust. Planted poly bags should be kept in a propagator for 4 weeks. Then it is partially opened for watering and weeding. Within next 2 to 3 weeks polythene should be removed gradually. After removal of propagator nursery plants should be kept in the shade house and hardening should be practiced in last 3,4 weeks. Overall 4-6 months of nursery period should be maintained. Field Planting Spacing for both mono-crop and intercrop with coconut: 2.4m x 2.4m spacing is recommended (1700 plants/ha). After the land preparation planting pits of 60cmx60cmx60cm are made and filled with the mixture of topsoil, cow dung or compost. Pepper vines are trained on live or dead supports. In Sri Lanka live supports are used and commonly used support trees is Gliricidia sepium. and some may use Erythrina indica (Dadap) or Grevillea robusta. Gliricidia sticks of 3-5cm in diameter and 2.5m in length should be planted to a 20cm depth at the corner of the planting pit. Supports should be planted at least 06 months before the planting of pepper provides adequate shade. Field planting of pepper is done with the onset of monsoon rains. About 4-6 months old potted healthy and vigorously growing plants with 5-8 leaves are planted in the pits at 15-20cm away from the support. Immediately after the planting, the temporary shade should be provided to protect cuttings from the direct sunlight and suitable mulch should be applied to the base to conserve soil moisture.

crop management

Training and pruning pepper vines As the new pepper plants start elongating, it must be tied using a soft material like cloth on to the support so as to facilitate the adventurous roots to attach themselves to the support. It is required to train 3-4 orthotropic (terminal) shoots over the support and a satisfactory number of plagiotropic (lateral) branches when the vine reaches to 8-10 nodes. Having 2-3 terminal shoots give a more productive columnar shape canopy and substantial numbers of lateral branches ensure the higher yield (Spikes emerge only from lateral branches) If any growing does not produce orthotropic at the 8-10 nodal stage the pruning of pepper vine from the terminal should be done to induce 3-4 orthotropic shoots. After 3-5 years pepper vine grows to the top of the standard and make a good canopy. At the height of 3.5-4.0 m, pruning should be done to maintain the height of the pepper plant and to make a good shape canopy. Shade control and mulching The height and number of branches of the Gliricidia support should also be regulated by pruning so as to keep a final height of about 4-5m height. It is recommended to prune Gliricidia trees at least 3 to4 times a year. In the wet zone pruning Gliricidia four times a year is highly beneficial as it reduces the labor cost and unwanted shade and also provides adequate mulching material. Experimental evidence has shown that application of Gliricidia lopping, at the rate of 10kg/tree/year, can cut down inorganic fertilizer requirement by 50% without any yield loss. If it is hard to find Gliricidia as an alternative 16Kg of dried cow dung and 12Kg of poultry mixture can be applied per vine per year. Fertilizer applicationRecommended mixture – 2380 kg/ha (without Gliricidia lopping)Recommended mixture – 1190 kg/ha (with Gliricidia lopping)

Components of the mixtureParts by weightNutrient in the mixture
Urea (46% N)414% N
Rock phosphate ( 28% P2O5)511% P2O5
Muriate of potash (60% K2O)314% K2O
Kieserite (24% MgO)12% MgO

Without Gliricidia Lopping

Age of plantationMaha Season (mixture kg/ha)Yala Season (mixture kg/ha)
1st Year250250
2nd Year500500
3rd Year and onwards700700

With Gliricidia Lopping

Age of plantationMaha Season (mixture kg/ha)Yala Season (mixture kg/ha)
1st Year125125
2nd Year250250
3rd Year onwards350350

Crop Protection


  • Pepper Yellow Mottle Virus Disease

Pepper Yellow Mottle Virus (PYMV) disease is the most harmful disease for pepper caused by a Combination of viruses. Initial yellowish spots could be seen on young leaves and subsequent stunted growth of the vine, small, irregular leaves with yellow mosaic patches, Short internodes, and small spikes with half-filled berries are visible symptoms. Gradually yield decline drastically. The disease is spread through vectors such as Pepper lace bug, Mealybugs and infected planting material. No identified control measures except the use of healthy planting material and destroying infected plants and vector control.

  • Quick Wilt

The disease is caused by a fungus called Phytophthora capsisi. The base of the plant is infected first and basal parts of the vine get rotten which will spread into the root system. When infected, plants get wilt and die within 2-3 weeks. The disease can be avoided by improving drainage and keeping the shade under control. When diseased infected plant parts should be removed and Bordeaux mixture or another fungicide should be sprayed into the base of the vine. Chemical control:Ridomil MZ 72WP ( Mancozeb 64%+ Metalacsine 8%) 25g dissolved in 10L of water can be applied.

  • Slow Wilt

Leaves become yellow in drought but get normal after rain. This situation exists for about a year or two and finally plant become yellow and die. About 20-30% yield decline in pepper has been observed due to slow wilt. Slow wilt of pepper caused due to the damage to the root system by mechanical damages, nematode and insect damages and fungal attacks. To avoid the nematodes 03g of carbofuran should be added into pots or 30g of carbofuran should be added into the plantinghole. Experimental evidence has proved that application of Glyricidia lopping at four times a year reduces nematodes significantly. If the condition is serious, infected plants should be uprooted and destroyed. Proper soil conservation and maintain organic matter content in soil minimize the incidence. Chemical treatment should be applied after confirmation of the real cause.


Vine borer- Pterolophia annualata

This long horn beetle damage was reported recently and beetle larvae feed inside bark area of the vine.  Due to this feeding whole vine or part of vine yellowing and withering can be seen in the field. Also small, round holes on the bark, leaves and internodes of dead pepper vine or part of vine remain with vine and not shedding to the ground. When brake the dead vine, creamy colour legless larvae can be seen inside feeding. To control the damage remove all weeds from the field (slash weeding) , Clean weeding about 2 feet around the pepper vine in field, Cut and remove all ground runners and (plagiotropic) lower side branches that touch with ground, If there is damage holes remove the infested plant part or whole plant, All removed vines and parts should destroy by burning them. Apply recommended insecticide to the infected vines and surround healthy vines after removing and burning the damage vines.

Lace Bug – Diconocoris distanti (Drake)

Lace bugs can be seen in fields throughout the year. The population is rapidly increasing during the rainy season.  Adult and nymphs suck juice from leaves and spikes. Therefore brown spots can be seen on leaves as well as immature spikes. Damaged spikes produce no or fewer berries. Finally dry the damaged spikes and fallen to the ground and significant yield loss can be seen when damage occurs during the flowering stage. Agronomic practices such as shade control and weed control are important for control the insect. Also hand pick the adult bugs and destroy them. If the damage is serious chemical treatments can be applied.

Root Mealy Bug – Planococcus cittri (Risso)

White colour mealy bugs are living as colonies near the base of pepper vine and suck the cell sap from roots and main stem under the soil. Symptoms are prolong yellowing, withering of vine due to lack of water and finally dyeing of whole plant. To control the damage use healthy planting materials, follow good management practices, clean weeding about 2 feet around the pepper vine, slash the weed in rest of the field, maintain the vigour of pepper vine by application of recommended fertilizer. Also destroy highly infected vines. Also ants carry the insects from place to place, therefore destroy the ants around the vine. Clean the base of vine and apply recommended insecticide with the guidance of extension officers.


Look for following symptoms in nursery such as downward curling of pepper leaf margin, formation of small and deforms leaves. When severe infestation, stunning, wilting and death of nursery plants can be observed.  To control damage select healthy and insects free planting materials for propagation of nurseries, remove all weeds in nursery beds, separate the damage plant in nurseries, remove the damaged leaves and burn it. If severe damage burn the whole plant and destroy it.   After apply recommended insecticide with the guidance of extension officers  

Immature shoot borer and leaf eating beetles are considering as minor pests due to lower damage to pepper cultivation.

Harvesting and Post Harvest Practices

Pepper is harvested after 7-8 months of maturity. To separate berries, peppercorns are threshed manually or by using a mechanical thresher. Pepper berries can be directly dried under the sun or can use artificial dryers. Sun drying takes 4-6 days. To get a uniform black color, blanching of raw pepper is done by immersing berries in boiling water for about 03 minutes. Blanching reduces drying time by 2-3 days and also kills any microorganism presence. To produce white pepper fully ripened berries are immersed in water for about 5-6 days until the seed coat get rotten. Then the seed coat is removed by rubbing on a wire mesh or using mechanical decorticator. Remaining pepper seeds are thoroughly washed and dried to produce white pepper. In addition to that green pepper, Rose/Red pepper, ground pepper, pepper oil, pepper oleoresin & pepper source and pepper toffee & jujubes like value added products also can be produced.

Standard Quality Specifications

Quality standards approved by the Sri Lanka Standard Institute are given below

Sp. Grade IGrade IFAQ
Moldy berries %112
Other extraneous matter %( insects live or dead, stones, sand, plant parts, mammalian fecal matter etc.)112
Light berries %Max. 4Max. 4Max.10
Moisture %121414
AppearanceDark black color with surface groovesDark black to brownish black color with surface grooves

Medicinal and Chemical Properties

Bioperine is a standardized extract from the fruits of black pepper (Piper nigrum) or long pepper (Piper longum). Its piperine content is 95% or more, compared to only 3-9% found in raw forms of these peppers. Black pepper extract, containing Bioperine has been used extensively in Ayurvedic medicine to treat fevers, digestive disorders, urinary difficulties, rheumatism, neuralgia and boils. Bioperine enhances the bioavailability of nutrients. Due to its ability to increase the absorption of nutrients comprising nutritional supplement formulations, Bioperine has been termed a natural thermo-nutrient and bioavailability enhancer.

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